New threads, vanishing threads and non-existent threads

Putting together a new workshop/kit often means looking into various materials, threads and other bits and bobs that would be suitable for it (I know, it’s a hard life smiley). In this case I was looking for a non-divisible variegated green thread a little thicker than a strand of stranded cotton. Three of the possibles I’m considering at the moment are (from left to right) Weeks Dye Works perle #12, Chameleon perle #16 and Sulky Blendables 12wt. I’ve never tried any of these before so I’m looking forward to stitching some samples with them.

Weeks Dye Works perle #12 Emerald Chameleon perle #16 Fennel Sulky Blendables 12wt Cactus

The WDW shade is called Emerald, and I’ve got one called Bayberry on back order from Sew & So – it looks lovely but I think it may be just a little too thick for what I want. The Chameleon one, a shade called Fennel, I picked up at the Knitting & Stitching Show; about the right thickness, but not many shades available unfortunately. You may notice that the Sulky image (of a shade called Cactus) is a stock one, as I ordered this from America and it hasn’t arrived yet. There is another possible green in the Blendables range but that looks rather dark online. I had hoped to find them at the K&S Show so I could see them in the flesh, but either they weren’t there or I missed them – easily done with so many stands there!

The vanishing thread is Tamar Embroideries’ mercerized cotton (which used to be called brodery cotton). It is being discontinued, not because it wasn’t popular, but because they can’t get the thread anymore for dyeing! So goodbye to this lovely variegated green thread that was perfect for little lazy daisy leaves. I hope they’ll find a good substitute soon.

Tamar Embroideries mercerized cotton shade 243

And the non-existent threads? I dreamed them. In one of those very realistic-seeming dreams a friend was explaining a printing machine to me, which turned into a weaving machine; beside it was a wooden rack with hanks of thread hanging from it, all labelled. I particularly noticed two of them, very attractive slightly fluffy threads not unlike chenille. The labels identified them as “fine priel” and “open priel”.

I woke up and the dream turned out to be as illogical in the cold light of day as dreams usually are, but I did remember the name of the thread! Alas, the only priels I managed to find were a mountain and a meandering stream; neither of them at all fluffy and both impossible to stitch with.

An in-between flower, green cats and great customer service

I shouldn’t have. But I did. We were going to go away for a few days and as I usually take a small stitching project on such occasions I decided I might as well, why not, take one of Kelly Fletcher’s freebies. I know it wasn’t strictly speaking on my To Do list, but after all Time Away is meant to be different from Time At Home, isn’t it? As it happens we had to come home early, so I either had to abandon the project for the time being or redesignate our unexpected Time At Home as Time Away Within The Meaning Of The Act. Guess which…

When considering materials for the KF designs I wasn’t sure I actually had a suitable fabric, as I haven’t done that much surface embroidery up to now (by the way, can someone explain to me why it is called surface embroidery? Surely most embroidery is done on a surface?), and what I have done has been on dupion silk or coloured cotton. For this I wanted a very fine linen. Now you may remember I did order some recently, but as it was from a Dutch shop the fabric was sent to my mother, where we will pick it up on our holiday next month. I do have a nice piece of 36ct Zweigart Edinburgh linen, however, which judging by Mary Corbet’s blog and other sources might work. Off I went to my linen bag (that’s a bag of linen fabrics, not a bag made from linen) and found to my pleasant surprise (and slight embarrassment in having forgotten all about them) a piece of 40ct Zweigart Newcastle linen in a stony colour, a piece of cream 48ct Gander linen, and a piece of antique white 55ct Zweigart Kingston linen. I bought them some time back for stitching miniatures on, but then found that silk gauze was easier to work on. Never mind, they will now Come In Handy!

Feeling very virtuous in having found the right fabric (or several right fabrics) in my stash, I added to this by deciding to use some of my collection of silks instead of the prescribed DMC cottons. Do you know how you sometimes keep certain special threads, fabrics, embellishments for a special occasion, and somehow there is hardly ever an occasion sufficiently special? Of course sticking to that principle rigidly enough will only lead to leaving behind an impressive collection of untouched silk threads in the hope that one of your nearest and dearest will want to use them. Now I’m not quite that bad – I have used several of my silks, but I’ve decided to use them more, and these two projects seemed the perfect start to my resolution.

So here is the set-up for Bloomin’ Marvellous 2: The Gander linen with four shades of Chameleon Shades of Africa silk, which is overdyed Soie d’Alger. I plan to use the recommended number of strands, but as I shrunk the design a bit that may come out too chunky, so I may change it for some or all of the petals.

Ready to go with Bloomin' Marvellous 2

And here is the set-up for Cats on a Wall; well, the materials – I haven’t transferred the design yet (like the flower it’ll be smaller than intended by KF). The fabric is the Newcastle linen (the shade is called Flax), and the threads are Rainbow Gallery Splendor stranded silk. The design uses four shades of green but I had only three in this series, so I’ll use the lightest one for two cats. Incidentally, I wound these threads several years ago but never noticed until now that I put the initials wrong on two of the bobbins. “RSG”. Tut.

The materials for the cats, for when I have time...

Talking of using up “special stash”, I’ve been doing just that in putting together the shisha kits: the variegated green stranded thread used for the leaf comes from my collection of Carrie’s Creations stranded cotton and silk. However, they are not easy to come by here in the UK, so it would be a good idea to have an indigenous thread standing by for when I run out. Like Tamar Embroideries’ Fine 5-Stranded Cotton, shade 243. It looked just the thing on their website, but would it go with the DMC coton a broder I am using for the stem? I contacted them to ask, and instead of having a look themselves and replying Yes or No (or, as some companies might have done, simply ignored it) they sent me a generous sample so I could try it out for myself!

A sample of Fine Stranded thread by Tamar Embroideries

And I think it’s a pretty good match, wouldn’t you say?

A good match

I haven’t stitched with it yet, but from the look of it the strands seem to be about the same thickness as DMC stranded cotton; the whole thread looks more tightly twisted so the strands have a more wiggly look than DMC. The only other difference I can see is that it is 5- instead of 6-stranded. There’s another shisha variation I want to try so I’ll use the Tamar thread for the leaf and I’ll let you know how I got on with it, and how it looks with the coton a broder stem.

Tamar's Fine Stranded and DMC stranded

Pictures

Not a proper FoF today (although I am working on one about the goldwork class I attended recently) but just a few photographs. Firstly, two showing the Tamar threads in a more relevant way – I realised that showing them in isolation yesterday wasn’t really very helpful. So here is the blue/green/purple shade (both light and dark) with the DMC colours used in Sunken Treasures, and the yellow/peach shade with DD Jaffa and one of the DMC Variations. As you can see the DMC is actually an almost perfect match, but unlike Anchor, DMC unfortunately produce their variegated perles in #5 only.

Tamar replacement for DD Daydream with DMC threads Tamar and DMC replacements for DD Jaffa

Reading yesterday’s FoF, my husband wondered why I had bothered to post the last picture (of Orpheus out of its hoop) as the most interesting bit was blurred. I explained that the picture was meant to illustrate the severe creasing flexi-hoops can cause, but on second thoughts I do agree that it’s a bit mean not to show anything of the work in progress. So to make up for it, here is a snippet of Orpheus.

A snippet of Orpheus

And finally a sneak preview of the goldwork FoF – this is part of the project I worked on last Saturday. Can you guess what it is?

A peek at my goldwork project

Going through my pictures of the Royal School of Needlework mini workshops I attended at various Knitting & Stitching Shows, I noticed that one of them is a little goldwork bee which I don’t think I ever finished. Must see if I can find it!

Tamar Embroideries and more Orpheus

In my continued search for threads to replace the perle cottons so inconsiderately discontinued by Dinky Dyes some time ago, I found a few likely looking shades at Tamar Embroideries. Most of their threads aren’t perles as such, but are perfectly usable for Hardanger, especially their Combed Cotton (also called Cotton Twist) and Fine Perle. I ordered the two shades I thought might do as substitutes for DD Jaffa and Daydream, the latter having proved particularly problematic to replace as it is used in combination with several shades of DMC (in Sunken Treasures).

Tamar replacements for Dinky Dyes

I was quite pleased with the bottom shade; the Combed Cotton is a little on the pink side for Jaffa, but the Fine Perle is quite a close match (it’s quite surprising sometimes how different different threads look which have been dyed in the same shade), so it’s certainly one of the threads now suggested in the Citrus chart pack (perhaps the thicker thread could represent pink grapefruit…)

The top shade is not another example of how differently the dye takes on different threads – I had ordered the lighter shade in both thicknesses but the Fine Perle was out of stock. Very generously, Tamar Embroideries refunded me for that skein but sent me a complimentary skein of the darker version! (I would have liked the option of cancelling if one thickness of a pair is unavailable, but even so it is a very kind gesture and jolly good customer service.) Comparing the lighter shade to Daydream I was very pleased to see they are very much alike; the Tamar thread is a little paler, and the look is different because it is a much matter thread than perle cotton, but it’ll definitely work – yay!

Meanwhile, work continues on Orpheus. And as the pulled work needs more tension than my roller frame provides, a flexi-hoop was called for. Unfortunately, because of their quite fierce grip on the fabric, flexi-hoops cause rather severe creases; not usually a problem when the whole design is within its circle, but not good when the crease runs across a part where there will be stitching later on. So every evening (and this is definitely a first for me, even though it would be good practice whatever I stitch) I take the fabric out of the hoop, and in the morning I iron it to take out every suspicion of crease, only to put new ones in in the evening. I’m hoping that this way they won’t become permanent creases.

Orpheus taken out of the flexi-hoop

PS That smudge in the middle is what I’ve done so far, artistically blurred. Well, I don’t want to give too much away smiley.

Goodies from the postman – and a digital snag

Both the digital postman and the real-life postwoman came up with the goods today – more about Treenway’s email later, but I thought I’d show you some of the pretty threads I got to play with. The two on the left are DMC Variations; Sam D used them in her January and I thought they looked so nice I’d treat myself to them. In the middle are my new Tamar Embroideries threads, together with two that I got before (on the bobbins) which go with these new ones. I haven’t decided whether to use the blue/sage or the fuchsia for the SAL – perhaps I’ll use both! The threads on the right are Weeks Dye Works perle #8; the Little Thread Shop, who are very helpful and offer many hand-dyed threads at very good prices, unfortunately only stock WDW’s perle #5, so I got the #8 from Sew & So with the Variations perles. As usual, they got the threads to me in double quick time – I like supporting local shops and small businesses, but of the big online suppliers, Sew & So definitely get my vote!

Various threads for the SAL

Not quite stash, but very welcome nonetheless, was a parcel from PhotoBox. They had a special offer of 60 prints for p&p only, so I got some cover pictures for the Mini Kits. I usually print them out myself as part of the chart packs, but I thought it would look rather better with a professionally printed picture on the front.

Cover pictures for the mini kits

And the digital snag? It’s my camera playing up in a most annoying way. I’m working on March at the moment for the SAL, and it is stitched on coloured fabric – and my camera simply will not focus properly to photograph it, especially when I try to get a close-up view of particular stitches. The fabric is, admittedly, a touch on the bright side, but even so it really shouldn’t be so fussy. As it is, it looks like I’ll have to stitch March a third time, in colours that won’t confuse my poor camera!

Scissors and Tamar threads

Did you get any stitchy presents this year? I got these – two pairs of very sharp, very pointy scissors. I saw them at a goldwork workshop I did at the Knitting & Stitching show, and was rather taken with them. One pair I will keep for goldwork (of which I hope to do more in future); I haven’t quite decided what the other pair will be used for, but they are a lovely bit of kit, aren’t they? Incidentally, the fact that I specifically asked for one blue and one purple pair puzzled my husband no end. When they arrived, and before they got wrapped, he studied them closely, trying to work out what the difference between them was. Both pointy, both sharp, one a fraction of an inch longer than the other but otherwise identical. My explanation was less than sensational: I simply wanted different colours so it would be easier to remember which were the goldwork ones …

very sharp scissors!

I managed to play with my Tamar Embroideries threads quite a bit, which was fun and in some ways surprising. From the descriptions on their website I had expected the four types of thread I ordered to be one equivalent to perle #5, two equivalents to perle #8, and one equivalent to perle #12. (I’m leaving out the ribbon for the moment, as it is a completely different thing and not suitable for Hardanger, but I will come back to it at a later date.) When the threads arrived and I compared them with DMC perles, one of the #8 equivalents seemed a lot closer to a #5.

Tamar threads and DMC perles

But however informative the look and feel of a thread can be, there’s really only one way to find out how they behave in action, and that is to stitch with them! So I stitched 5 of my little Hardanger trial motifs in different combinations on 25ct Lugana. The blur in the bottom right-hand corner is a little experiment I am keeping secret for the moment smiley.

Tamar thread experiments

The first combination is Combed Cotton for the Kloster blocks and Matt cotton for everything else. The Combed Cotton works well, it gives good coverage and has a perle-like texture. It is quite twisty, however – if you don’t dangle your needle frequently the thread is likely to curl up and work itself into a tight spiral as you try to pull it through the fabric. Nevertheless, I like it; with a bit of care it stitches up well and the look is good. As you can see the Matt is almost the same thickness as the Combed, but with less texture. It is just about all right for the woven bars, although they are quite thick, but the backstitch and especially the dove’s eye lose all definition.

Tamar Combed Cotton and Matt Cotton

Here Combed Cotton is combined with Brodery Cotton. This is much more perle-like, and it works well for the woven bars. It’s still a little thick for backstitch (it definitely feels a little heavier than a standard perle #8) but the dove’s eye looks fine. This pair seems closest in look and feel to a standard perle #5 / perle #8 combination.

Tamar Combed Cotton and Brodery Cotton

Combed Cotton paired with Fine Cotton Perle gives an airier look. The backstitch and dove’s eye are well-defined and delicate, and the Fine Cotton Perle handles much like a standard #12 perle. It takes about 9 weaves to cover a bar; in comparison, the Brodery Cotton takes 6, and when I use a standard perle #8 I tend to do 7 weaves.

Tamar Combed Cotton and Fine Cotton Perle

Because the Matt Cotton was so much heavier than I expected I tried using it for Kloster blocks. Coverage was unexpectedly good (it is not quite as thick as a standard #5) although occasionally it was difficult to poke in the cut ends so that they stayed put. The texture is much smoother than that of the Combed Cotton. Used with the Brodery Cotton I found there wasn’t enough contrast between the two threads.

Tamar Matt Cotton and Brodery Cotton

Matt Cotton combined with Fine Cotton Perle has more contrast, and I like the additional contrast between the matt Kloster blocks and the shiny bars and dove’s eye. This combination of threads may work rather well on a 28ct fabric.

Tamar Matt Cotton and Fine Cotton Perle

So will I be buying more of these threads? Definitely! Which ones? That’s a bit more difficult. I like the look of the Fine Cotton Perle but I don’t like having to do lots of weaves or wraps for the bars. For the Kloster blocks I am almost sure I’ll go for the Combed Cotton rather than the Matt, simply because the Combed Cotton gives slightly better coverage and has more texture to it; it also works better with the Brodery Cotton which would be my choice for a #8 substitute. What will probably happen is that I’ll get the Combed, Brodery and Fine Perle in most colours, so I can vary the thickness of the bars and filling stitches. I may even use three threads per project: Combed Cotton for the Kloster blocks, Brodery Cotton for the bars, and Fine Cotton Perle for the filling stitches and any backstitch. Now how many shades can I afford to get …

New threads to play with

For the past week I’ve been lying in wait for the postwoman, eagerly snatching the bundle of letters and parcels from her hand (not forgetting to say “thank you”, of course) only to find lots of Christmas cards, the odd bill, and parcels that turned out to be for my husband and contain bits of vintage car. Don’t get me wrong, I like Christmas cards and I have nothing against bits of vintage car, but I was waiting for my parcel from Tamar Embroideries! Today it finally arrived, and even unwrapping it was a pleasure, because out of the outer envelope fell this:

My parcel from Tamar Embroideries

The thread holding the parcel together appears to be chenille, a lovely tactile thread which I can’t find on their site. I will email them about it as I think it may have possibilities …

Having carefully undone the knot (you don’t want to rush these things – pretty parcels with the promise of even prettier contents are to be savoured) I got my first look and possibly even more important, my first feel of these new threads. First impression: they are beautiful! Gorgeous colours, and very interesting to see how differently the various threads have taken the dye. And a great variety of textures and thicknesses, including an intriguing-looking “ribbon”; I’m going to enjoy playing with these!

a selection of Tamar Embroideries threads

Brand new threads, good old squissors

It’s a shame I didn’t manage to post yesterday – such an unusual date that it seems a waste not to use it! Alas, we arrived back from the Netherlands only that morning so writing FoFs was not the first thing on my mind. There were new SAL subscribers to welcome, and of course our main business (unfortunately Mabel doesn’t quite cover the mortgage yet, not to mention pensions …) had more than its fair share of backlog. But today I just wanted to scribble a short post because I’ve made two exciting purchases!

The first is from Tamar Embroideries. It is really very kind of them to provide most of their colours in two shades, one light and one dark, perfect for the SAL smiley. In order to find out whether their threads are suitable for Hardanger (most of them are not actually perles) I have splashed out on four different types of thread, all in the same colour: Fine Cotton Perle (“stitches as perle #12”), Mercerized Cotton (“similar to cotton a broder”, so should work instead of a #8), Matt Cotton (a similar weight but “with a softer feel and a matt finish”) and Combed Cotton (“similar in weight to a perle 5 but with a tighter twist and a matt finish”). Just as an experiment and because it sounded interesting I’ve also ordered one skein of their tubular Cotton Ribbon; it sounds round rather than flat, so will it work instead of silk ribbon?

My second purchase is something that I have long been looking for – yes, I have found a source for my favourite rainbow titanium squissors! I am expecting their arrival any day now, so they should appear on Mabel’s Fancies soon; could this be the perfect Christmas present for all you SAL subscribers and other Hardangerers out there?

Stef Francis and the Song of the Weather SAL

Why this combination? Has Stef Francis decided to sponsor the SAL, showering all subscribers with their splendid hand-dyed threads? Alas, no. (You didn’t really expect that, did you?)

The only thing they have in common, so far, is that both of them “happened” today. Yesterday, as I was writing about independent needlework suppliers, I went through my list of shops and companies that supply speciality threads. Of course I had the Stitch-Along in mind while doing so, as I want to incorporate lots of different threads in the version I’ll be stitching over the coming year! Anyway, I ordered two thicknesses of thread in two shades, and today the post brought me a parcel filled with purple and mauve loveliness – a pleasure not expected so soon.

Stef Francis hand-dyed perles

The SAL didn’t “happen” today in the same sense; after all, it doesn’t start until January 1st (plenty of time to get all your bits and bobs together). But from today you can sign up, joining other stitchers from around the world and becoming an official Song of the Weather SAL participant!

One more stitchy thing happened today – a Cross Stitch Forum friend (you know who you are, Mrs MBK!) mentioned a Cornish supplier of hand-dyed threads, Tamar Embroideries. Their colours are gorgeous, they do a #12 perle cotton and some of their other threads look as though they could well work in Hardanger. I fear for my budget …